Texas Don’t Know Science

I’m getting a little embarrassed to identify myself as a Texan. Can’t we shut up already about creationism, intelligent design or whatever we’re calling it these days? It seems a handful of folks on the Board of Education are making us all look like yahoos, and they’re holding the majority of normal Texans, if there is such a thing, hostage to their radical religious beliefs.

In November, Texas will be finalizing biology textbook choices that high schools will use over the next decade. Because we’re such a large market, we have a lot of influence over what goes into the books, books which other states buy, too.  Some folks on the Board of Ed want to teach creation “science;” some say they just want to “analyze” (read: refute) evolution.

Really, there should be no debate. The law is clear: no creationism, no intelligent design in our science textbooks or classrooms. Period. But there is still room for us to teach these beliefs in our own home or in a private school. There’s just no room to force this faux scientific theory on all of our children.

And it’s best this way, for it were subject to the same rigorous standards and scrutiny of science, then we’d have to acknowledge the following:

1. Through Intelligent Design (ID) we discover that the creator of our species did not do a very good job. In the blueprints for mankind, he or she left a lot of room for error. So much, in fact, that one in 33 babies are born with birth defects. Through other design flaws, even more children will develop cancer, Multiple Sclerosis and thousands of other potentially life-threatening illnesses and diseases.

2. Through ID, we discover that the creator did not think things through. He put us on earth with all sorts of creatures, bacteria and other organisms that can eat us, attack our brains and disable us. We cannot breathe in water and will drown if submerged for too long. We can tear. We can break. We can suffocate. We cannot tolerate temperatures that are too hot or too cold. We need to recharge and refuel constantly, and certain foods will make us sick or cause death. We are hobbled by colds and viruses every year.

3. He did not create us all equally, not even close. Some of us are born with advantages that others don’t have: some can run faster, some cannot run at all. Some can think better, some cannot think at all. Some are beautiful, some are not. Each of us has a different shelf life.

4. The inconsistencies in our physical designs are not features. Our variations have caused us to exploit, marginalize and enslave our own species.

5. The intelligent designer was not able to create an efficient machine. Our species takes in more sustenance than is necessary and must transport its waste away from its home in order to avoid illness and disease.

6. The intelligent designer left us vulnerable to the weakest part of our brains. Our emotions interfere with and oftentimes override logic. Ego and insecurity and anger can cause us to commit horrible acts against others, even ourselves. Our neural pathways can meltdown, resulting in various behavioral and emotional problems.

7. The intelligent designer did not leave any instructions; he has offered no warranty. This creator does not hold himself accountable for his mistakes. There have been no apologies, no new releases and no product updates to amend some of the design flaws. In the United States, this would not be acceptable. He would have been sued and shut down.

I’m not suggesting that there are no signs that point to a higher intelligence. But these signs could also be pointing to something (or nothing) else; for example, to an even higher intelligence that doesn’t make mistakes. Could our immediate designer be just another Frankenstein, another scientist with his very own planet to experiment with? Einstein realized that space is not emptiness. It’s flexible and stretchable like a skin. Maybe we are the innards of a great designer. What happens when our universe stops expanding? Will there be another Big Bang?

There are many things we just don’t yet understand, but we don’t have to settle for speculations and explanations that don’t really make sense just so that a few of us can keep our kids tethered to their Bibles.

If we want to bring a belief system like creationism into our texts or schools through any sort of guise, we should also acknowledge that, through this “theory,” there are other implications that don’t fit with our current views of God. If all this seems a little silly, perhaps the opponents of evolution should take a closer look at what they’re asking all of us to swallow.  If God is to remain intact as an “intelligent designer,” we should not force him into places where we think he belongs.

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54 responses to “Texas Don’t Know Science

  1. Have you ever read Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock? He has some fascinating ideas about the origins of the human race that don’t envolve magic.

  2. Very well said!

  3. Deb, what an excellent and thought-provoking post. I had a few questions and rebuttals to some of the points you made….

    1. Is it insulting, offensive, hurtful, and/or inaccurate to say that a child born with a birth defect or disease is an “error”? Or is that completely accurate and fair? I am not being snarky, I am honestly asking the question. I don’t know the answer… so far thankfully my children remain healthy… but I wonder if I had a child with a birth defect if I would find it incredibly insulting or hurtful when people called him/her a mistake? Maybe the real mistake is that people are so discriminatory towards people with defects? (I am not calling you discriminatory…. and I’m not trying to criticize your comment…. I’m honestly wondering how a parent of a child with a birth defect or disease feels about comments like this?)

    2 & 3. These points make you sound like Lance Thruster. :-) Do you think God would’ve succeeded at His job if the entire human race was made up of immortal, perfect, identical, drones? I find the thought of that world a little creepy…

    5. I think human inefficiency is more of a society-created than a God-created factor… if you think about how the Native Americans operated 500+ years ago, they were an incredibly efficient people with a very high respect for nature and, for the most part, lived in great harmony with the earth. I don’t know if God is to blame for human’s current waste culture? Although I totally agree with you that it’s an issue…

    6. This one I agree with completely. Emotions can be a fickle thing and should not always be heeded. “Head over heart”, I often say, and sometimes I feel like people don’t like when I say that….

    • @Molly Thanks for the interesting points.

      Some of these, like my post, of course, are speculative. If I believe in god, do I think that he created human inefficiency? What is “God’s job”? (And, actually, didn’t we fail him first in the Garden of Eden? So, if we were to believe the OT, god’s intention was to create us all as immortal, perfect, naïve, drones.)

      As for the first point, I would never intentionally be offensive or hurtful. The truth is that diseases (like cancer) and deformities occur because there have been mistakes in the replication of genetic material. You’re attaching an emotional response to the science.

      • @Deb I know you are not an offensive, hurtful, or discriminatory person. Sorry if you thought I meant that. I recently read a very interesting article about how science is working to cure Down’s syndrome and it was causing quite a riot between two camps – some parents didn’t think their children needed “cured” and didn’t want to change exactly who their child was… other parents thought it was ridiculous to not try to cure this just like any disease. I found myself wondering what camp I would belong to if I were in their shoes…

  4. Deborah, I’ve posted this before on your blog, but this point is worth repeating: Once you have to bolster faith with science, you’ve lost the argument for faith. If faith alone is enough for salvation, then faith should stand alone. Those who need to support faith with scientific proof or attach a ‘science’ label on religious creation myths are in essence admitting that faith alone is not enough. If we need science to prove god, why bother with god? Why not go straight to science for our answers?

    • Yes, so well-stated, Patti O’Sullivan!

    • Nicely put Patti.

      It is frustrating when people use their superstitions to dumb down children. There is no nice way to put it – the creationists (especially the YEC variety) are stupid and wicked. They are making the community collectively stupider and that is totally unforgivable. What makes it even worse is that they use the cloak of science to destroy it. There is no controversy (regarding the creation/evolution aspect) nor is there such a thing as creation science. The slogan they like to use is that teaching “both sides” allows the students to make up their own mind. What use is there of science professionals if students can object the facts the body of science has accumulated over ages? Why do they not want to teach alternatives to germ theory of diseases or theory of gravity?

      • Konsta, Great points here: ” What use is there of science professionals if students can object the facts the body of science has accumulated over ages? Why do they not want to teach alternatives to germ theory of diseases or theory of gravity?”

        I guess we know why the states are falling behind in education.

  5. Wow Patti, that sums it up beautifully!

  6. Intelligent Design isn’t science. It doesn’t make predictions that can be proven or disproven for one, there are no principles that can be tested objectively, and pasting “God diddit” on top of the Theory of Evolution is a clear violation of Occam’s Razor (you shouldn’t add on unnecessary elements to an explanation without a really good reason (proof)).

    • Great point, Andrew Hall. Yet Texas continues to do this every few years. Frustrating. If I remember correctly, Perry even bragged that we teach both evolution and creationism in our schools

  7. That is the best response to ID I have ever read. Bravo! I am saving this to my hard drive, in case my kids are ever assaulted with having to consider ID as a valid theory. Thank you!

  8. Deborah, You are my hero. I love this blog and always look forward to your posts. Unfortunately, the public would disapprove of me posting on your blog, so I have to remain anonymous. :-(

  9. I am all in favor of introducing creationism (e.g. intelligent design) into the classroom. I would allow this under one caveat: it must be subjected to the same rigors of the scientific process as any other theory. It needs to be shown as testable, verifiable, and repeatable to be a valid scientific theory. Should it fail on those grounds, then it needs to be removed. However, if they are using creationism as a blanket statement regarding observations and facts, then they need to apply Occam’s Razor first before deciding creationism has any validity. If a simpler, more correct explanation exists (e.g. natural laws), then whatever the observation/fact is would not be included in the creationist theory.

    One of the aspects of this topc that irritates me is how people on the creationist side do not really understand what the word theory means in science. It has two specific functional definitions: 1) a theory is a general statement that covers a wide spectrum of related obsercations and/or facts, 2) a theory is a hypothesis about why such-and-such effect occurs. The theory of evolutions falls squarely into the first definition. It is a collection of observations and facts that are interrelated and point to certain natural processes. It is not a “hyposthesis” that the creationist people like see it. They are dead wrong on that account.

    Let’s see if their theory, of either stripe, can withstand scientific scrutiny.

    • @Derrick Absolutely. Totally agree.

      Admitting that evolution does not answer all of our big questions doesn’t weaken it as a theory. It has withstood the rigors of science. However, classifying intelligent design creationism as a theory does confuse science with speculation. Intelligent design does not meet the criteria of a scientific theory. For instance, the claim, “an almighty God exists,” is unfalsifiable. There is no way to prove that this claim is false, just as there is no way to prove that a pink unicorn isn’t living in my basement. (She’s really tiny and can shape-change.) Science is concerned with that which can be measured, observed and verified. However, a scientific theory does not mean that the theory is static or set in stone, although some are. (The earth revolves around the sun, for example.) Many theories are organic models that shift and change as our understanding of the world grows. Claiming that this makes evolution flawed means that these folks don’t understand what science is to begin with.

      (Refer to Patti O’Sullivan’s point, which should be printed in the front of biology textbooks in Texas.)

  10. I love this blog post so much. If you want to teach your children about Intelligent Design, that’s your right. But I want my kids to learn SCIENCE. I suppose we could teach Intelligent Design in Literature, you know, like we do Mythology? UGH. I can’t even believe this is a debate right now. ID doesn’t belong in tax-payer funded schools. Period. The. End. There are very few things that are black and white in America…this is one them.

  11. Excellent post, Debbie. Very thought provoking and certainly worthy of re-reading and forwarding to some who believe the world was created by an “intelligent designer.”

    As a graduate of San Diego State University with a bachelor of science degree in zoology and someone who has done extensive reading since that time on the process of evolution, I’d like to address Molly’s very sincere and very important question of “errors”.

    Any organism born outside of the unfettered combination of two genetic parental contributors is not an error per se. It is however a mutation. Mutations are the very foundation of the entire process of evolution that comes about through the process of natural selection. Some mutations are advantageous and give a ‘leg up’ so to speak to it’s recipient and others are detrimental to survival. Mutations are the framework of evolution. Without them, nothing would have evolved and we’d all be little masses or protoplasm drifting in the oceans, lakes and streams of life.

    That being said, there could be some semantics involved here as well. An “error” is the term usually applied if not verbally at least mentally to any birth “defect”. Defects are simply those mutations or conditions that are deemed to be unfavorable to survival or sustaining a “normal” life. Other mutations often are not even noticed and may even enhance the organism’s ability to thrive and survive.

    Also keep in mind that the goal of “natural selection”. (not that it really has a “goal” or consciousness but you get my drift, I hope) The goal of natural selection not to get the organism to a long and happy life, but simply to get the organism to the reproductive phase of it’s life cycle.

    So these “errors” we see in all organisms including humans are simply the process of mutation. We have actually hindered the process of natural selection in humans due to our medical, social and compassion skills in that often these people with mutations/conditions are assisted through to the reproductive phase and therefore pass these (often maladaptive) mutations or conditions on to successive generations.

    (I’m certainly not making a negative judgement against that process, but simply making an observation that without our medical and social advances, many these mutations and conditions would simply exit the gene pool through the process of natural selection. This is likely exactly what happened through the first 199,000 years of our (estimated) 200,000 years of existence on this earth)

    All that to say that I wouldn’t use the term ‘errors’ to apply to babies born with various defects and conditions, but rather call them simply part of the wonderful process that got us here.

    • Dennis thanks for the thoughtful reply. I think I have a hard time using the word “error” too. I understand in my first point that I’m convoluting emotion with science… but I think it would be difficult for any parent of a child with a medical condition to do otherwise…..

      • I just wanted to add one more point. I was writing that #1 from the assumption that, if there were a single creator who is represented through the Bible, Torah, Quran, etc., this would be the perspective. Does that make sense? I mean, from the ID standpoint, God created with purpose and did not intend for organisms to evolve. So, within creationism, there is no language for mutations.

    • Dennis So much better stated. Thank you. Mutation is the more appropriate language.

      There are mutations that are more or less favorable to the evolution of mankind, and medicine is slowing down the weeding out process in some ways (right now, at least).

  12. Creationism and ID, not to mention devils, demons, fairies, and sprites, etc., are all perfectly suitable ideas for discussion in the classroom. Just not the science classroom. Would the Physics teacher like it if we asked her to teach poetry because rhyme and alliteration involve acoustics?

    As for mutations vs. errors, the former too has become something of a semantic minefield these days with the introduction of the “mutant” into the popular imagination. The word originally meant, simply, to change. Even so, perhaps the X-men are good guys, but still, you see the problem.

    The word “error” comes from, in fact, a word that meant “to wander.” An “error” occurred when one wandered from truth. But there were more positive meanings and results of wandering as well: think of Arthur’s “knights errant” and their search for adventure. Thanks to them dragons were slain and damsels were rescued! And it may well be that to err is human and to forgive divine, but I think most of us feel it best to err on the side of caution.

    That’s the two cents of the language professor and philologist (who still feels that creationism and ID should not be taught in science classes and that chemistry should not make its way into his History of the French Language course ;-)

    • deosullivan3 All good points. I should have mentioned in there something about the devil’s part in all this. “The devil is able to hack into the creator’s work.” Big fail.

      Yes, now I remember the quotes and the knights errant, the courtly love and the chivalry. Of course, the reality was much different!

      I see why Wiki is popular. We should start wikicolumns. Community-written op-eds. (Watch someone start this…haha)

  13. I’m getting a little embarrassed to identify myself as a Texan.

    I was going to say, Deb … they’re making you look bad :-)

    Well written. It’s both embarrassing and infuriating to hear these people trying to inflict their bedtime stories into public schools and textbooks under the guise of “science” and the banner of “academic freedom” when they wouldn’t know either one if it jumped up and gave them a haircut. This issue was already decided under Dover vs. Kitzmiller and should no longer even be given time for consideration in the public forum, yet we still have people like this lady being given air time:

    “I understand the National Academy of Science’s strong support of the theory of evolution,” said Texas A&M University nutritionist Karen Beathard. “At the same time, this is a theory. As an educator, parent and grandparent, I feel very firmly that creation science based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every biology book that is up for adoption.”

    How the consideration of these ideas in the context of textbook material for public schools isn’t in itself a violation of the Establishment clause I don’t know. Clearly they’re not talking about any random intelligence, but the God of the Bible. (I’d love to see Hindus pull the same thing in Texas.) There’s no evidence for it even in the broadest sense, it’s never even gotten to peer review, and at best it’s a desperate plea from ignorance and incredulity that would be dismissed outright by any student of Logic 101. The only things keeping this afloat are a deliberate and wilful ignorance of science and a blatant disregard for the First Amendment.

    As a side note, I will celebrate the day when people no longer feel as though they can claim authority of knowledge on anything other than parenthood by indiscriminately whipping out the phrase “… as a parent …” in public discourse. For the love of god, it doesn’t give you a PhD in All the Things.

    • @Jason Didn’t I already look bad?

      Funny image there: “….they wouldn’t know either one if it jumped up and gave them a haircut.”

      Yes. Sigh. There was Dover vs. Kitzmiller decided by the SCOTUS and then there was the TX Board of Ed, which voted that any textbook that taught evolution must also teach ID.

      This is great! “As a side note, I will celebrate the day when people no longer feel as though they can claim authority of knowledge on anything other than parenthood by indiscriminately whipping out the phrase “… as a parent …” in public discourse. For the love of god, it doesn’t give you a PhD in All the Things.”

      Just wait–you’ll have it all Piled Higher and Deeper one day. (You know, Bull Sh*t, More Sh*t, and Piled Higher and Deeper.) Except it’s not knowledge.

      It’s funny because when you have kids, the stress, lack of sleep and worry really wear on the brain (mix in age with that). Then the kids reach their teen years and they confirm what you’ve suspected all along: mom and dad really don’t know anything!

    • Karen Beathard (what a funny name btw) epitomizes the stupidity that is creationist. I am strongly of an opinion that no matter what a person does for living or what kind of education they have, if they are creationists, they are stupid – if they are YEC, they are idiots. No sugar-coating needed.

      Karen B. must also be weary going outside since gravity is also ONLY a theory – she might be blown up into space all of a sudden. It is somewhat understandable if a person has no education to believe what a charismatic preacher (who you´ve been told to believe by telling that beating you senseless is what would happen if you question “the Good Book”) tells but a person who self-identifies as an educator…

      • @Konsta, I’ve often struggled with that disconnect, too, with those that believe in creationism and have an education. It does seem to suggest something about their critical thinking skills. I mean, if they’ve read the Bible, all sorts of flags should be going up!

  14. Great topic! I really enjoy reading your blog! The real problem with introducing ID (Creationism) in the classroom is that it perpetuates pseudo-science. It has already become a national disgrace that so many people don’t even no the difference between real science and pseudo-science. (Like watching those specials on the History Channel about alien life on our planet – and believing in that non-sense – something I have had to talk my aging mother about recently – she actually believes that stuff.) Now these morons want to confuse our kids, and adults even more by introducing non-science into science class. Is this a conspiracy to dumb down America so that it will be easier to control us?

    Pseudo-science is why we have had outbreaks of preventable diseases! Because parents believed in junk science and refused to get their kids vaccinated. NBC recently posted a great article on their web site on how to detect the fake science from the real deal. Carl Sagan (my hero) articulated this years ago in his “Baloney Detection Kit”. This article (see link below), gives many references of good web sites and blogs to discover the truth about many of today’s science BS from real proven science facts. Enjoy! And keep posting!!

    http://www.nbcnews.com/science/how-detect-pseudo-science-b-s-8C11323108

    • @Sandra Great article. Thank you for sharing this! Love those links that expose/confirm science myths. I favorite it to my bookmarks.

      Yes, good point, too. Sadly, there are parents who won’t allow their kids vaccinations or medical treatment, even when their kids are dying.

  15. Ah, “Fingerprints of the Gods”….right up there with Von Daniken. If we had known, back in 1963, how far off the rails Texas was going to go? Kennedy would still be alive cause some forward thinking sort would have shot the School Book Depository instead!

    • syrbal-labrys I had to look up Von Daniken. I had not heard of him, but I’m surprised (okay, maybe I shouldn’t be!) that people would believe the guy when he was convicted of fraud. Hello? It’s ironic that prison just gave him more time to write his next book!

      Yes, that’s too funny. The School Book Depository should have been targeted instead!

  16. Well written and maybe you should consider moving from Texas for your sanity!

  17. Hey, don’t you know that is all that Eve chick’s fault? We were all perfect and naked and happy until a talking snake fed her an apple. Stupid women! Stupid talking snakes! Stupid apples! After that we weren’t perfect anymore and our inbred offspring had to pay the price. Stop using your fancy logic to try and explain everything! :p

  18. Plenty of Texans doing Texas proud (like Deb).

    Len Hart is a Texas treasure too – http://existentialistcowboy.blogspot.com/2013/10/why-descartes-proof-of-existence-of-god.html

    • I saw your comment on the Descartes post. That was a good post, and as Hart said, more about logic than God. Descartes essays were interesting reads. The one about the human mind being more easily known than the body I remember had slightly shifted my perception of reality.

      • I Like Homer Simpson’s response to Pascal’s wager –

        “But Marge, what if we chose the wrong religion? Each week we just make God madder and madder.”

        xD

  19. Deb, it is by these simple questions/arguments that you post here, that the nave arguments for ID fall apart, least to say that they do not hold up to any scientific scrutiny. The problem here is that the people pushing for ID in Texas, and everywhere else, is that they are blind and not open to even common-sense arguments. ID is flawed from its very basic principlea since a “faith” is presented as fact. cheers JP

  20. Two things that give me peace, and convince me that I am not, in fact, surrounded by idiots, it’s just that the idiots shout a lot louder so it seems that their numbers are greater: Jon Stewart and this blog. Thank you, it is soothing to my jangled nerves to know that you are out there!

  21. billtomlinson@mac.com

    I don’t think these comments are from real posts. I’ve read a lot of comments after articles and after about three or four posts people usually start insulting each other with name callings and hateful comments. The people above are courteous and respectful. Clearly you guys are either imaginary or haven’t figured out that you are supposed to be nasty and snarky. Keep up the good work you imaginary people.

  22. Re: Texas and science

    It’s worse than I thought. On *all* the women’s drivers licenses, they got an “F” in sex!

    xD

  23. Snark: But all of the mistakes, calamities, death and destruction you mentioned are not really mistakes; they’re God’s design, to test our faith.

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